‘Raid’ sequel makes for visceral film experience

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Think about the last American action flick you saw. It is entirely possible that the shaky camera work butchered the action to the point where you could barely see what was happening. In the Indonesian film “The Raid 2: Bernadal” — as in its predecessor — director Gareth Evans makes sure the audience can experience every visceral second of skins splitting, blood spilling, bones breaking and head smashing with precise clarity.

Taking place a mere two hours after the action of “The Raid: Redemption,” Rama, played by Iko Uwais, finds himself in more trouble with the Jakarta department of the Indonesian National Police, his former employer.

The Jakarta is part of a web of crime syndicates that control the city. Rama’s only hope of protecting his family is to infiltrate the Bangun family — one of the largest underworld groups that controls the Jakarta — so he can expose their corruption and wipe them out.

Bad plotting and hollow characters often accompany good action, and “The Raid 2: Berandal” has more than enough plot, sometimes stretching the film a bit too thin. Viewers are introduced to a variety of characters in the crime underworld, from Alex Abbad’s Bejo, a crippled gangster, to Tio Pakusadewo’s Goto, the powerful mob boss of the Jakarta. Uco, Goto’s spoiled, psychotic son played by Arifin Putra, makes an appearance, and even a character that survived a seemingly fatal injury from the first film returns.

Though they all have interesting presences in the sequel, these characters take screen time away from our main character, who is absent for large portions in the second act. Then again, Evans should be commended for trying to infuse some plot and character development between all of the action.

But, like in any martial arts film, the main draw is the fights, and “The Raid 2” delivers them in spades. The fluid camera movement and sharp editing during the fight scenes make the action feel more brutal and real. Evans wisely utilizes the larger budget for the sequel, particularly with the choice of settings for the fights.

Unlike the first film, which took place in one building, the sequel features fights taking place from within the space of a bathroom stall to a subway train to a prison yard covered in mud. The movie even gives the “Fast and Furious” franchise a run for its money with a flawlessly executed car chase intercut with a fight scene, which takes place in one of the moving cars.

Something the film should have used more of was dark humor. Sporadically, the film would poke fun at the ridiculousness of its stunts and produce some genuine laughs, such as an assassin who kills his targets with a baseball. Any film in which petty criminals are martial arts experts should have a smart sense of humor to make the proceedings more palpable.

If you are looking for something other than the typical computer-generated spectacle lacking in real artistry, can handle intense violence and have no problem reading subtitles, “The Raid 2: Berandal” should be your choice at the movies this weekend.

Zack Grullon is a staff writer. Email him at film@nyunews.com.

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